Chances are high that you've consumed some form of maltodextrin–a substance commonly used as filler in processed foods (for example, bulking up cake mixes). However, it also has some far less mundane (and far more fun!) uses, if you can get your hands on the right kind.
Maltodextrin powder is hygroscopic–it's very absorbent. One specific type, tapioca maltodextrin, is particularly good at absorbing liquid fat. This property can be utilized to turn pretty much any liquid fat into a powder that is full of flavor and melts on your tongue. And THAT is really cool.
Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago famously used this technique to make a salted caramel powder. For a Cocktail Lab cocktail pairing dinner back in January, we created a bacon powder garnish using tapioca maltodextrin and liquid bacon fat:
For you guys, I decided to powderize olive oil:
I started out following these directions but ended up needing to add about 20-30 more grams of maltodextrin to achieve the right consistency (the bacon powder recipe linked above was much more reliable).
I decided to use the olive oil powder as a garnish for our dinner of steak and kale. The powder liquified upon contact with the wet fat on the steaks (and provided sort of a creamy, slightly-sweet adornment) while it held up much better on the greens:
By the way, if you keep it away from liquid this stuff is incredibly stable. I made these powders back in January and they both taste fine and just the same as they did when they were made.
If you want to play around with tapioca maltodextrin yourself (I've heard you can powderize Nutella and peanut butter to great effect!), look for it anywhere that sells molecular gastronomy supplies, like L'epicerie.
An “amuse-bouche” (which literally translates to “mouth-amuser”) is a complimentary morsel to start the meal, a tasty little gift from the chef. We hope you enjoy these edible tidbits.